Rethinking How You Charge Your Personal Training Clients

January 26, 2018   ·  Trainers Journey

Absolute Income or Relative Income. Which one is better? You decide...

In this example, Absolute Income is related to personal trainers who sell training by the session. Relative Income is related to personal trainers who sell monthly packages to many clients. By the end of this post you’ll have a complete understanding of the two concepts and you’ll likely be able to definitively decide which you’d prefer to have. 

The goal being to make the most amount of income over your career, with the least amount of work. This way you can spend time enjoying the other hobbies you like doing because we both know that a fitness professionals hours can sometimes be a complete nightmare.

Let’s get started! 

Absolute Income

Most personal trainers I know of think of working with and charging clients in terms of sessions. For example let’s say you’re working with a client, we’ll call him Bob. 

Bob wants to begin training with you and asks how much it will cost. So, you tell him you can do $75 dollars per session and it’ll be for 20 sessions. Total revenue to you - $1,500.

This is an example of Absolute Income. For each time you train Bob, you’ve earned $75 per session. Your time is bound to a dollar amount. In this case you’re saying:

“I’m worth $75 per hour.”

All seems good, and heck! $75 per hour, people would kill to make that much money an hour. However as someone who has done this kind of personal training in the past, we both know that’s only the beginning. That’s before you start to calculate the time it takes to travel to Bob and you realize that your 20 minute drive each way added 40 minutes onto the supposed 1-hour session.

So, while you thought you were making $75 per hour, you actually wound up making around $40 an hour after considering drive times.

Now sure, you can combat this by lining up clients back to back, and i’ve tried that too! It works great! For like 4 months. However, a few issues begin to rear their ugly heads in the Absolute Income personal training lifestyle. 


  1. Reschedules & Cancellations.
  2. Long time until next sessions are bought.

Issue #1 - Reschedules & Cancellations

This right here is a personal trainers kryptonite. Reschedules & cancellations of sessions happen all the time, you have to be a schedule rearranging ninja in order to keep up. It seems like there is always a reason a client can't make it. 

I can't make it, my kids are sick.

I can't make it, i'm feeling too tired.

I can't make it, I was asked to stay late at work.

I can't make it i’m stuck in traffic.

I can't make it, I overslept

I can't make it, a meteorite just crashed into mars. 

Constantly missed sessions result in it taking longer to re-up with a client on sessions which leads to issue #2.

Issue #2 - Long time until next sessions are bought.

You signed Bob up to 20 sessions. If he trains 2x per week, it’ll take you exactly 2.5 months to finish his sessions. 

2 sessions per week X 10 weeks = 20 sessions. (2 and a half months)

Factor in a few reschedules and cancellations and before you know it Bob’s original 20 sessions lasted him 3 to 5 months. What a real pain in the ass that can be!

The worse part is, you can’t just tell Bob:

 “I’m going to charge you every time you cancel a session” 

If you do this, Bob might get annoyed and never train with you again and he likely will not be giving you any word-of-mouth referrals. Or worse, he may bad-mouth your service making it harder for you to get clients.

These are some of the downsides to having your income directly tied to your time. AKA - Absolute Income. But what about Relative Income? Is it better for you? Well, let’s find out. 

Relative Income

I’m just going to dive right in. Relative Income as a personal trainer means charging a client each month instead of per session. It takes a bit of a mindset shift. But I’m thinking it won’t take much to change your mind once you see the benefits.

Relative income allows you to:

  1. Take vacations freely.
  2. Always be getting paid.
  3. Work when and where you want.
  4. Be able to choose who to work with.
  5. Work with as many or as little clients as possible.
  6. Have no income limits or ceilings. 

Relative income is, well, it’s all relative. To understand what that means let’s first read the definition: 

Definition of relative as it relates to a personal trainers income

“Considered in relation or in proportion to something else.” 

Now it's up to you to decide whether or not those reasons above are enough to make you begin dabbling with changing how you charge your clients. From per session to per month. If you the list doesn’t do it for you just yet. Read on. 

#1 - Take Vacations Freely

Imagine disconnecting your time from your ability to earn money. You can travel anywhere in the world and still train your clients. This is because online personal training is starting to boom. 

You can work with your clients by scheduling them workouts to do day in and day out. They follow along, keeping track of their progress along the way. So the next time you feel like taking a break and going to spend a month of time on the beaches of Hawaii or hiking in the Himalayas, you can because you have your clients up-to-date and always with you.

Thank you online personal training!

2. Always be getting paid.

When you charge per session you have to worry about getting paid. Reschedules and cancellations are a headache. And that’s only with 1 client. Now try to keep things in order with 20 clients. Good luck

When you make the switch to charging a client a monthly package fee for online training you can work with exponentially more clients in less time. For example: 

Absolute Income: 

You work 40 hours a week with 10-15 clients, all the while dealing with schedule stresses and rearranging magic throughout the week. Depending on your hourly rate you can earn somewhere between $800 and $4,000. Not bad. But good luck getting a consistent 40 hours a week of training. 

Your potential income cap: $16,000 per month. ONLY IF you have a consistent 40 hours each week and charge every single person $100 per hour.

Your potential client pool will be limited to clients who can afford $100 per hour. And since it's in person training you’ll really only have access to people within a 10-15 mile radius of your area.

Relative Income: 

You’re utilizing online training. Because of powerful personal training software you can schedule a week of workouts for a client in under 15 minutes per client! That means you can schedule 100 clients in only 25 hours of time.

Your potential income cap is limitless. However, let’s say in this case you charge half of your clients $300 per month and the other half $400 per month. How much can you earn? 

$300 x 50 clients = $15,000/mo & $400 x 50 clients = $20,000/mo

Earnings potential: $35,000 per month. (Only 25 hours of work per week.)

Your potential client pool: The entire world. Thank you internet

Also, it’s worth mentioning that you should think about the difference between how many potential clients can pay $100 per hour v.s how many more people can afford $300 per month. 

Ultimately you can scale your training business in an online capacity as big as you want. The above example was 25 hours of weekly work. What if you started hiring virtual assistants to do the scheduling work for you based on your programs per client? You can likely work with 200, 300, even 400+ clients.

Thanks to online personal training and relative income you can work with as many people as you’d like, up until you feel like you have enough. Remember, it’s all relative.

3. Work when and where you want.

It’s online personal training. You can do your work from where you live, or while resting in a hostel while backpacking some country. Your call.

In the above example, you can finish 25 hours of work in just 3 days. Assuming around 8 hours per day of course. Then you’ll be free to do as you please. Hire a virtual assistant and you can get the work done much quicker. 

4. Be able to choose who to work with.

When you’re training clients in person and by the hour, you don’t have much freedom. If you aren’t clicking with a certain client but need the money. You don’t have a choice but to put up with it.

With online personal training. It’s no matter, you can easily pass on a client who doesn’t fit with your style and it would likely be no harm to you because you can easily replace them. 

5. Work with as many or as little clients as possible

We touched on this in number 2. But to give a deeper example. You can set a revenue goal and stick to it. If your lifestyle requires $10,000 per month, and your packages cost $400 per month. You only need to work with 25 clients. 

If your lifestyle requires $40,000 per month and you charge $400. You need 100 clients. Remember, only 25 hours per week per 100 clients. 

You can use this google sheets document I made to help you breakdown your ideal monthly revenue. 

6. Have no income limits or ceilings.

You are the only bottleneck in your business. If you choose to work with 15 clients. Awesome. If you choose to work with 500 clients with 4 virtual assistants. Awesome. It’s all relative.

Wrapping up

I used to only focus on in-person hourly sessions myself. It’s what personal trainers know. It’s habit. But now after weighing the pros and cons of each. I choose relative income over and over again. And there you have it: 

  • Absolute income v.s relative income
  • hourly sessions v.s monthly packages
  • offline training v.s online personal training
  • Ball & chain v.s complete freedom. 

The choice is yours...

What do you think? I'll see you in the comments section down below!

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